Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module ENGL44930: Reading Medieval Literature

Department: English Studies

ENGL44930: Reading Medieval Literature

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2020/21 Module Cap 20


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Excluded Combination of Modules

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  • To introduce students to key genres and texts from across the Middle Ages, in particular the 12-15th centuries
  • To explore modern critical approaches to ‘the medieval period’ using a range of perspectives and methodologies
  • To interrogate critical assumptions about the study of the Middle Ages
  • To provide bases for future research in medieval studies


  • Medieval content will be taken from a variety of genres, including epic, chronicle, romance, hagiography, autobiography, lyrics
  • Representative texts/authors are Abelard, William of Malmesbury, the Alexandreis, Chaucer, the Paston letters, the Roman de la Rose, Piers Plowman
  • Critical perspectives will be introduced using key authors/texts from the 20th and 21st centuries such as Eric Auerbach, C. S. Lewis, Paul Strohm, Carolyn Dinshaw

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will gain a detailed knowledge of, and engage critically with, a wide range of texts and genres from the Middle Ages
  • Students will reflect on the connections between a variety of diverse genres and texts
  • Students will develop an enhanced understanding of critical approaches to the medieval era
  • Students will gain familiarity with textual cultures in pre-modern eras
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts
  • an ability to demonstrate knowledge of a range of texts and critical approaches
  • an ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to literary studies
  • informed awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts
  • sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects on communication of historical circumstances, and to the affective power of language
  • command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology
  • awareness of literature as a medium through which values are affirmed and debated
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • a capacity to analyse critically
  • an ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of distinctive interpretative skills derived from the subject
  • competence in the planning and execution of essays
  • a capacity for independent thought and judgement, and ability to assess the critical ideas of others
  • skills in critical reasoning
  • an ability to handle information and argument in a critical manner
  • information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access information
  • organisation and time-management skills

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Seminars encourage peer-group discussion, enable students to develop critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts, and skills of effective communication and presentation; promote awareness of diversity of interpretation and methodology
  • Independent but directed reading in preparation for seminars provides opportunity for students to enrich subject-specific knowledge and enhances their ability to develop appropriate subject-specific skills.
  • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 Fortnightly 2hrs 18
Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
Preparation and Reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment 1 3000 50%
Assignment 2 3000 50%

Formative Assessment:

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Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University